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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vancouver Vantage Point #15

Mike Moran’s Vancouver Vantage Point #15

Don’t Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

February 25, 2010

It’s unfortunate that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t want to book a suite just yet at the toney Grand Hotel Polyana in Sochi, Russia, between February 7-23, 2014………..right now, he could get a rate of $382(US) per night if he acted quickly………….. the Black Sea resort hotel was built just three years ago by Gazprom, has great security and is separated from outsiders or intruders by a bridge………….the 17-year NHL czar and his owners are not sure they want to come back to the Olympic Winter Games again in 2014 with their most valued “assets,” a stable of the world’s best ice hockey players, in a far-off time zone that creates network TV issues back in North America, and doesn’t provide his league with any money and disrupts the NHL season……………..watching the riveting clashes between Canada and the United States on Sunday and then Canada-Russia last night, I was stunned by this demonstration of the best hockey in the world, ever……..fast, breathtaking skills, no goons, enforcers or fighting, and how the massive worldwide audience was handed a gift by being able to see it……………the U.S. audience on MSNBC for the USA-Canada game the other night surpassed the numbers for last year’s Stanley Cup game seven, which was carried on NBC for free……………..it was also the largest TV audience in Canadian history, with 21.3 million tuning in for part of the Games at the least……………….even Team USA general manager Brian Burke dons his league cap (he’s the President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs) when parroting Bettman’s message………….“We get some bang when the Olympics are in North America, in Vancouver or Salt Lake, but when they’re overseas, we have gotten no bang at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last Olympics the N.H.L. takes part in,” he told the New York Times……………..Bettman adds that the ultimate decision will be part of an agreement with the players union, but reports indicate most of the players love the Olympics and would like to come back……………in the pre-game stuff last night before the titanic clash between Russia and Canada, super star Alex Ovechkin sported a “Sochi 2014” baseball cap for the TV shot, and he and other Russian players have said they will leave their NHL clubs and play in Sochi, no matter what the NHL decides, after all, it’s their Homeland……………..whatever the NHL’s stance publicly is now, or what the ultimate choice will be, Bettman and his owners need to wake up and smell the java………….he is getting more exposure, promotion and PR in Vancouver than the NHL gets anywhere, anytime………you can’t put a dollar figure on it for that matter. If Bettman and the owners bail out on Sochi, waiting for the next time the Games return to North America, good luck………..the IOC has a long memory for sleights, like Denver’s decision to give back the 1976 Olympic Winter Games, or the USOC’s announcement of its own TV network in the runup to the vote on the host city for the 2016 Games which outraged Lausanne, NBC, and helped to torpedo the Chicago bid……………..Bettman should take USOC Chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun to dinner while there’s still time left, and ask the USOC leaders for advice…………the USOC guys are making huge strides in Vancouver in repairing the relationship with the IOC by reaching out to the international organization with sincere gestures and actions…………….it should be noted that while Blackmun was the acting chief executive at the USOC in 2001, he was successful in persuading the USOC’s Executive Committee to add a policy to its drug program that made it mandatory for the NHL and NBA to submit players who wanted to be Olympians to random drug testing in the year ahead of the Games………………the decision startled and angered NHL and NBA officials, and MLB union boss Donald Fehr, who was part of the USOC leadership then, but Blackmun stood his ground……………”We are prepared, and this was discussed, to have some athletes refuse to participate,” Blackmun said. ”If that’s the case, we’ll go on without them………………”I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if we start to customize our anti-doping policy to accommodate them, we’re not being consistent with our message.”……………this is going to be really interesting in the end…………..I have no idea what the International Ice Hockey Federation,the IOC, or USA Hockey would come up with to replace the NHL players in the Games………….as much as my own life has been enriched by being in Lake Placid in 1980 to see our team of college players and minor league, semi-pro players slay the Soviets and their machine, I can’t see a return to that structure, nor could I imagine the IOC accepting teams in the Games made up of players from the American Hockey League and various European Leagues……………..but with the IOC’s stringent demand that he Games feature the best players in the world—note the end of Baseball in the Games because, among other issues, Major League Baseball was reluctant to taking a break in the season to send its best players, though IF President Harvey Schiller was set to offer some positive solutions, and the friction with Soccer and the World Cup related to the quality of Olympic Teams and their players, I don’t see a compromise. If the NHL bags the Games in 2014, getting back in again will be tough, and that decision would cost Bettman and the owners more than they could possibly understand now.

Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha,Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City’s Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant.

Mike Moran

Senior Media Consultant
The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation


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